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Vaccinate Against Measles, WHO Tells Europe and Russia

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More than 22,000 cases of measles have been reported in parts of Europe and Russia over the past year and the worst-affected countries need to get busy vaccinating, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

Americans may be distraught over 150 cases of measles, mostly linked to an outbreak that started at Disneyland, but the situation in some parts of Europe is far worse.

“Seven countries in the Region have reported 22,149 cases of measles in 2014 and thus far in 2015,” WHO said in a statement.

"Even though measles cases fell by 50 percent from 2013 to 2014, large outbreaks continue.”

“This threatens the region’s goal of eliminating the disease by the end of 2015. Even though measles cases fell by 50 percent from 2013 to 2014, large outbreaks continue.”

The cause is the same as in the United States – unvaccinated or undervaccinated pockets of people. Measles is the most infectious virus known, lingering in the air after an infected person has left a room, and infecting nine out of 10 people exposed if they’re not immune.

If 95 percent of people in a community are fully vaccinated against measles, it creates enough "herd immunity" to prevent outbreaks.

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“When we consider that over the past two decades we have seen a reduction of 96 percent in the number of measles cases in the European Region, and that we are just a step away from eliminating the disease, we are taken aback by these numbers. We must collectively respond, without further delay, to close immunization gaps,” Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said in a statement.

“It is unacceptable that, after the last 50 years’ efforts to make safe and effective vaccines available, measles continues to cost lives, money and time.”

“It is unacceptable that, after the last 50 years’ efforts to make safe and effective vaccines available, measles continues to cost lives, money and time.”

The worst-affected countries include several former Soviet republics: Kyrgyzstan, with 7,477 cases last year; Russia, with 3,247; and Georgia, with 3,291. Bosnia had 5,340 cases and Italy had 1,674.

Other European countries have dealt successfully with epidemics of measles. Vaccination rates in Britain plunged to 85 percent and measles cases rose: 1,000 cases 2011, 1,900 in 2012 and again in 2013. A mumps epidemic made more than 56,000 Britons sick in 2004-2005.

Now, vaccination rates are back up to 95 percent and just 137 cases were reported in Britain in 2014.

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